APN+: EU-India FTA being negotiated at the cost of patients lives
Friday, 10 February 2012
APN+ strongly condemns the EU’s deadly trade policies
10 February 2012, Bangkok – At the Annual General Meeting of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+), the APN+ Board strongly condemned the European Union’s continuing attacks on generic medicines through the EU-India FTA negotiations. At the EU-India Summit being held in New Delhi today, the EU is pressuring the Indian government to announce political “trade-offs” for the FTA negotiations.
“On the 3rd of February we took empty ARV bottles to the European Commission’s office to show them what the result of the EU-India FTA would be,” said Mr Sudin Sherchan of the National Association of People Living with HIV in Nepal. Since 2007, the EU-India FTA negotiations have become increasingly controversial as leaked texts of the negotiations show that the EU is pushing India to adopt intellectual property protection standards far in excess of what is required under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
“Intellectual property protection kept medicines out of our reach for many years at the beginning of the HIV epidemic,” said Noel Dionisio, a board member of Pinoy+, National Network of People Living with HIV in the Phillipines “Today our governments are paying about 100 USD per person per year for treatment that was offered to us at a discount of $10,000 per person per year a decade ago.”
Noel Dionisio is referring to the dramatic drop in the prices of AIDS medicines in 2001 after Indian generic companies offered generic AIDS medicines at what was then considered rock bottom prices thanks to the lack of patent protection on medicines in India. Since 2005, when India had to comply with TRIPS and provide patent protection, health safeguards included in the law by India’s Parliament have been used by health and People Living with HIV groups to keep key medicines off patent and in generic production.
“India’s pro-health patent law allows patents on truly new medicines and not for new versions like combinations or salt forms of old medicines. This law should be a model for all countries including the developed ones where the financial crisis has highlighted the impact of exorbitantly priced medicines on health budgets across Europe,” said Thomas Cai of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) in China. “Unfortunately in China we had to provide a TRIPS-plus legal regime because of our negotiations with the US to get into the WTO. The high prices of medicines and the refusal of the government to provide improved first line ARVs is the price that Chinese people living with HIV are paying for the deal with the US.”
But India’s law is now under attack in the FTA negotiations. The TRIPS-plus measures being demanded by the EU include longer patent terms and the imposition of data exclusivity which has led to exorbitant medicine prices, for example in Guatemala where price differences of 845000% have been found in the same therapeutic segment and in Jordan where 70% of 102 off-patent medicines introduced in the market had no generic equivalent.
Multinational pharmaceutical companies, who are already suing governments across Asia for pro-health policies, will gain tremendously from the EU’s proposals for intellectual property enforcement to provide them with even more litigation avenues to prevent generic supply. From pulling all actors in the production and supply chain of generic manufacture into court cases to suing governments in private, international arbitration over policies promoting access to medicines, the EU proposals are likely to have a serious chilling effect not only on generic production but on the willingness of the Indian government to issue compulsory licences or control the prices of medicines.
“The EU’s demands of India are outrageous,” said Shiba Phurailatpam, Regional Coordinator of APN+. “The EU is pouring fuel on the fire already set by the Global Fund and developed country donors who are withdrawing funding from HIV. With funding for treatment in question, the drying up of the supply of generic medicines threatens to throw us back to an era when HIV treatment was a luxury only the rich could afford.”
While the EU-India FTA, if the EU’s proposals are accepted by India, would have a global impact, this is not the only EU FTA negotiation of concern in the region. The EU is negotiating similar agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. Representatives from across the region also expressed their outrage at the continuing efforts of the US to pressure other developing countries into TRIPS-plus measures.
“In Vietnam we are stuck between the trade policies of the European Union and the United States,” said Mr. Do Dang Dong, Vietnam Network of Positive People (VNP+). “While the EU is trying to prevent the production and export of generic medicines from India, the US is in direct FTA negotiations with Vietnam through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to impose TRIPS-plus provisions that will prevent local production or imports of generic medicines,” he said.
Ironically, the US’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is the key supplier of generic ARVs in Vietnam, procures the majority of its medicines from Indian generic companies.
“Today we are speaking with one voice from this region,” said Ms. Joana Qereqeretabua from Fiji Network of Positive People. “We are not pawns in these trade games that developed countries and multinational pharmaceutical countries are playing with our governments. Just look around the region. Every country that is trying to use health safeguards in their patent laws is either being sued or is facing a free trade agreement. The bullying has to stop,” she said.
Across the world, the EU-India FTA has sparked protests and street actions against the EU. Participating in a Global Week of Action, activists in Nepal, UK, France, Uganda, Malaysia, India, Thailand, South Africa, Argentina and many other countries are confronting the European Commission on its actions in the EU-India FTA negotiations. And as the EU-India Summit starts in New Delhi today, thousands will march through the streets of Delhi taking their message directly to the EU and the Indian government.
“APN+ supports the global movement against the EU-India FTA and calls for an even larger movement against all FTAs being negotiated by the US and the EU with developing countries,” said Habiba Akhtar of the Bangladesh National Network of PLHIV. “Our lives and health will not be negotiated by men in business suits sitting in closed, air-conditioned rooms. Our future is in our hands alone and no one can snatch that away from us.”
APN+ calls for the immediate withdrawal of ALL TRIPS-plus provisions from all Free Trade Agreements being negotiated in the region. APN+ also demands that the European Commission announce the removals of ALL TRIPS-plus provisions from the EU-India FTA at the Summit today in Delhi.
APN+ stands in solidarity with all other peoples and movements whose rights to life, health, livelihood, equality, equity, food, environment, knowledge, traditional systems of life & livelihood will also be negatively impacted by these free trade agreements that threaten to widen the gap between the rich & the poor not only between countries but within countries as well.
Do Dang Dong, Board Member, VNP+
Tel: +84 9742 3366
Noel Dionisio, Board Member, Pinoy+
Tel: +63 9461 119591
Shiba Phurailatpam, Regional Coordinator, APN+
Tel: +66 866 000 738